I love the quiet of the night.
When I lived in Budapest, I loved walking home late at night. The song of rigó birds filled the air as I climbed the stairs from the river to the top of the Castle District where I’d pause to admire the view of the Danube and the lights of Pest; then past the cathedral and across the square, to stroll along the back walkway to my flat. The blackness of the night was dotted with the lights of people’s homes in the Buda hills and the stars in the sky above, the silence sometimes broken by a screaming cat, or the tap tap tap of a woman’s high-heeled shoes as she hurried home.
In Barcelona, I loved cycling late at night; the traffic was calm and I could hear the water of the freshly washed pavement slap against the tires of my bicycle as I headed for my flat, zigzagging through the narrow streets of Gracia, the quiet sometimes broken by the strumming of a late night guitarist, or the laughter of a group of revellers not yet ready for bed, the smell of their hashish wafting through the air as they smoked the night away.
Here in Hove, the peacefulness of the seafront late at night answers my need for quiet. When the sea is calm, it’s only the sound of the waves whispering to the pebbles on the beach, and the occasional car passing on the road nearby, that breaks the silence.
Years before, in Canada, it was a canoe trip to Booth Lake in Algonquin Park that awakened my hearing to the quiet of the night, and inspired this poem.
who made this place
where hollows between hills hold water
wind sighs through pines
where forest, carpeted with needles and fern
meets shore, lined with statues
bush-totems: deer, moose, lynx
hewn from trees, roots, stumps
torn from land by storm
sculpted by wind, rain, ice
bleached by sun
beached to stand sentinel
where in night’s darkness
stars look at themselves
in water, still as glass
and hills, perfectly round
cast shadows on the lake
and back again to the sky
where in the silence
the earth snuggles me
as I nestle my head in the ground
twigs fall from trees
coyotes call, beavers thwack
loons sound their home.
I am overwhelmed by my smallness
here, where forest and water can take me
make me theirs forever
where it wouldn’t matter if I died
where I could die, and dying wouldn’t matter.
Who made this place?